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A cardiologist is a medical doctor who has completed additional training to specialize in disorders of the heart. There are four requirements to become a cardiologist: obtain a medical degree, attend a post-graduate internal medicine program, complete the specialist residency and secure a cardiologist medical license. All four of these items are required to become a cardiologist.
A cardiologist only accepts patients with heart problems, but they can range in age from infants to senior citizens. The vast majority of cardiologists have private practices that are based on referral only. They are all associated with at least one major hospital and will have a rotation requirement to work with patients who arrive in the emergency department with a heart issue. It is important to note that cardiologists diagnose and prescribe treatment plans. They do not typically do cardiac surgery.
All cardiologists have met all the requirements to become a medical doctor. In order to become a medical doctor, there is a combination of education and experience requirements. The experience is managed through medical residency, where the medical students work in a hospital under the supervision of certified doctors.
In order to become a cardiologist, the medical student applies to internal medicine specialty programs, with a sub-specialty in cardiology. There are a limited number of spots available in this field and the competition is quite intense. The selection committee reviews the academic performance, aptitude and references from course instructors.
An internal medicine program is typically two years in length, with a combination of classroom and practical experience. The course work is very focused on the details of the heart and blood vessel systems. The expectation is that a cardiologist is an expert in this field. As a result, they must have a very high degree of knowledge.
Upon completion of medical school, all students are required to take a medical board licensing exam. Cardiologists must take the standard medical doctor exam and the specialist exam. These exams are usually multiple choice and test a broad range of information at a very detailed level. Only successful candidates are granted the license to become a cardiologist.
Upon certification, there are several employment opportunities for cardiologists. They can accept positions in hospitals or private practice and treat patients. Many cardiologists go straight into product development, working for pharmaceutical or scientific companies to develop new products and medications. Others take positions in universities and hospitals as researchers, expanding the knowledge about the heart and the treatment options for heart disease and related illnesses.